Sunday, 1 August 2021

How It's Going, Part Two of Infinity

Hello, my fine people.

I thought you might like an update on my mom and her geriatric assessment that took place last week.

I wish I could tell you what the assessment results were, but that report has to go to her family doctor first, and is then released only if she requests it. But I've been told the family doctors may relax those rules in the interest of communication and making good choices for the patient.

Mom had reluctantly agreed to have a health care worker come in to her home to give her her pills, but when the time came for her to give her official permission, she balked. And it wasn't worth it to me to fight it.

She is quite concerned about Covid, or at least that is the reason she has given for a lot of the preferences she expresses. She would go to the grocery store every day if she had transportation, but she won't have anyone in her house.

But we've had a slow breakthrough, if there's such a thing, on the new car decision - she told me yesterday that she misses her car and would like to have another, but then she thinks to herself, "It's so much easier for Donkey to drive me places!"

So, even though my heart sank a little at the thought of being caught in the role of chauffeur, it's better than having her drive.

And maybe it will eventually lead to her accepting other people driving her, if necessary.

My impression from the geriatric clinician who conducted her assessment is that nothing will change in Mom's living arrangements until she gets much worse. Bearing in mind that she could not actually release the report to me, this was only my impression, based on her careful choice of words when I asked about "care for the caregiver" (me) and explained why I was asking.

It wasn't unexpected, but it was still hard to hear. She said that if a patient refuses outside help, the family may have to accept a certain amount of risk, and things may have to get considerably worse before anything can change. She gave the example of her own farming grandmother, who finally got to the stage where she couldn't understand that the caregivers were caregivers, and instead thought they were farm workers who had no other place to stay, and thus allowed them to stay in her home.

I am resigned to this now, but only because I have done a lot of pondering on how to balance my needs and my mother's needs. I have thought about boundaries, and responsibility, and also the sad fact that my help will likely never be enough for her, given her memory loss, and the end result of that will be an unhappy mother, no matter how much I do.

So, instead of an intensely unhappy but short period of my mother railing against suddenly being "put" into a nursing home, I will be facing a long slide into unhappiness for her, coupled with me feeling unappreciated and unfairly burdened. I expect there will be many moments of frustration for both of us, but it seems there is no easy choice. And to be honest, in many ways I don't think she needs to be in a nursing home yet, I just need to not have full responsibility for every aspect of her life where she does need help.

Two weeks ago, I think my head would have exploded if anyone had had the absolute gall to point out that I can't change my situation, I can only change my response to the situation. I've never liked that little aphorism, and I think I know why. Because I didn't understand it.

Today? I can see how that works. I cannot change the situation, true. But changing my response to the situation doesn't mean just gritting my teeth and smiling while I run faster and faster.

What changing my response actually means, at least to me, is to have my boundaries firmly defined in my own head, and then doing - or not doing - the things that take those boundaries into consideration.

For example, I will visit her daily with her pills, because I think that's an important basic function to maintain her health, and as I said she will not accept anyone else's help (yet!). But I will not take her grocery shopping every day just because she'd like to get out, partly because I know the daily pill visits are going to deplete me, and partly because I have offered her other ways to socialize and she will not take them.

This may seem so obvious to the average observer, but it's been hard-earned wisdom for me. I am a people-pleaser, and a person who takes my family responsibilities very seriously. And I tend to push myself to the wall, and then even further, before I realize I can't go on. I need to set those boundaries so I won't reach that point of desperation.

And so . . . . . . on we go . . . with a rather steep learning curve for both of us.

*****

In other news, I have met my most urgent work deadlines, so I am enjoying a bit of a break for a couple of days. As I write this, it is past suppertime and I haven't done a thing all day except loaf around and listen to the peace and quiet. It's one of my favourite sounds.

Yesterday I learned how to get gas in a gas can for the lawnmower. I kept expecting the thing to explode, but all was well. The trick is to avoid igniting the gas vapours with either obvious things like an open flame, or unobvious things, like a spark from static electricity in yourself or the plastic gas container, or from a hot vehicle nearby. Thank goodness for the internet, which has the answer to just about anything. 

The grass hasn't grown much the last few weeks, which is lucky for me because I didn't have time to cut it anyhow. Our summer has been surprisingly temperate. This is not what we've come to expect from our summers; it feels more like the summers we had twenty or thirty years ago. It makes me feel guilty, given that so many other areas are clearly suffering from the changing climate, enduring fires, drought, record-breaking heat, and flooding. Beyond the guilt, though (which is not a useful response to begin with), I feel profound relief that I haven't had to add relentlessly difficult weather to what feels like an already heavy burden on me this summer.

Small mercies are sometimes not so small.

***** 

How are things with you, my friends? I'm here, and I'm listening. 

And lounging.

If I were a dog, and if there two of me, this is what it would look like.



 So fire away. I'm all ears.



 

48 comments:

  1. Some time ago we set rules for dealing with my mother, although of course we can be flexible. We are not automatic teller machines for withdrawing money. She must pay her way. We will not make multiple shopping stops entailing lifting her walker in and out of the car. Loneliness is a problem you have brought on yourself, with your self obsession. Your telephone can make outgoing calls as well as take incoming calls. That is not very many things really but of great benefit to us.

    It sounds like you have sorted out your head with your mother, which I suspect is easier than sorting her out to suit your self.

    I wonder why your grass is not growing much at this time of the year? Seems strange.

    I love the lounging photo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have given excellent examples of things that will preserve your sanity. I know I will keep refining my rules and also as you said I may need to be flexible sometimes, but it's a relief to have realized that rules are the key to keeping my sanity.

      I don't understand the grass thing either. We had sun and we had rain and those are pretty much the things that make 'er grow :)

      Delete
  2. I'm happy that you have found a solution of sorts that allows you to keep your own boundaries. I wonder if your idea to not take your mother out every day just because she wants it, may help her accept someone else driving her just because she really does want to get out. it could be a step along the learning ladder for her and a respite for you.
    I also think a metal gas can might be safer than a plastic one. Heavier though, so there's that to think about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm hoping what you said in your first paragraph is how things will go. And if it doesn't, I think I can accept being the bad guy now, if it helps me stay sane.

      I haven't seen a metal gas can in years - I wonder if they still sell them here? Would that eliminate the risk of static electricity? I have no idea!

      Delete
  3. It is notoriously difficult to get elders the help they need when they are convinced they don't need it. Good for you, setting your boundaries.

    Our weather is about normal right now, which means hot. But we aren't stupid over the top hot beyond normal, and we aren't getting heavy rain every single day, either, for which i am very thankful.

    Good job on learning to fill a gas can! It is a good skill to have, i had to learn on the fly so i could take gas to #1 Son when he ran out on the way home from work at 10pm one night. Crazy kids.

    Everything here went sideways lately, my refused-the-vaccine husband, of course, came down with the plague and even with my vaccine, living in the house with him i caught it before i realized that was not his allergy acting up again like he kept insisting. Now we are without income as i cannot clean houses until i am 3 days symptom free. Talk about not wanting this kind of vacation! At least so far the vaccine is keeping my symptoms very mild (and they are almost gone, for which The Lord be praised).

    You are in my heart and prayers, and i still miss your poetry contributions on Mondays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear about your husband and you getting Covid, but glad your own symptoms are mild. It's not good that you're without income, though. That is a tough spot to be in. Thank you for your kind thoughts, Mimi. I hope you and hubby are back to health very soon.

      Delete
  4. You are doing more than is reasonable for your mother, in spite of her believing otherwise. Visiting every day for pills is commendable, and I'm sure you add some visiting time. The rest is up to mom, to stage some interaction with her friends or neighbors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could see a way around the daily pill visits but I can't. She just can't grasp how to take them anymore and it leads to phone calls and repeated explanations with no progress. It's actually easier and quicker to just take them to her as needed. And yes, the visits are always about more than just pills. But I've learned how to be firmer about leaving, too. I wish Mom would accept that masks and two shots of the vaccine will make it reasonably safe for her to interact with others. But if she doesn't, at least I won't be helpless in the face of that refusal now.

      Delete
  5. The lounging dogs are great. That could be me with Sweet Cheeks. Have you set a number of times each week that you will take your mom to the store (I'd think once) and communicated that number to her? Even if she forgets, telling her could be good because if she hears over and over that you have limits, it might allow her to realize she needs help from other caregivers. Or not. I don't know, but I want to help. I have never put gas in a can but I've learned how to do all sorts of things I never had to do before so I'm sure I could learn the gas in the can tricks. You've given me a head start. I'm glad someone is having a temperate summer. No need to feel guilty. My grass is long. It's too hot to mow in addition to the backyard being so muddy I can't move the mower. Hiring a lawn service might be in my future.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's surprising what you can learn to do when you have to, isn't it? I don't like it, but I'm not going to just withdraw from doing things, so I have to get myself educated.

      Yes, I've told Mom I'm happy to take her for groceries once or twice a week, depending on my workload at the office. She seems okay with that, and is still refusing other help! But it gives me back some of my life, so it's working in that way.

      I've thought about hiring someone to do the lawn but so far it's been manageable. If it was really long or if the weather was really hot I'd be very tempted to hire somebody to get me through that part of it too.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for the update on the situation with your Mom. I'm glad she had the assessment done and I hope things will work out so you can eventually discuss the results with your Mom's doctor. It's good at least that she no longer wants a new car. Does you area have any type of special transportation for older people? We have something called the OATS Bus (old age transportation system). You can get a ride for a very low cost. They take older people to doctor's appointments, grocery store, Wal-Mart, etc. The driver is trained to help out with things like walkers and wheelchairs. You are very wise to set up boundaries with her. That is essential for your health and sanity!

    I'm so happy you've had a break from your job. Congratulations on learning how to get gas in a can. Isn't the internet great for things like that! Don't feel guilty about your weather - enjoy it! You've certainly had enough to deal with without weather problems.

    I love the cartoon! How funny, and I'm sure you know that some cats sleep like that too! Please take care of yourself and keep those boundaries! I'm keeping you in my thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Bonnie. We do have a bus service for disabled folks, and it would be available for my mother if she goes to an adult day program the geriatric clinician told us about . . . but Mom doesn't want to go. She seems quite worried about Covid and doesn't want anything to do with taxis or caregivers driving her or coming into her home. I respect that, but now I also understand that that's her choice and I don't have to suffer because of it.

      Delete
  7. Do you have medical power of attorney? If not, it might be worth getting that. It sounds like she is mentally competent to sign the paperwork, anyway. It might get you easier access to things like test results in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent point, Infidel. I'll look into that.

      Delete
  8. Good to hear from you again, and happy to hear, that you have sorted your own thoughts and boundaries out. Small - but not so small - blessings are to be happily received. You deserve some fair winds. Many well wishes and prayers. And echoing Mimi missing your poetry ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Charlotte. I don't know when I will feel like writing poetry again. There's just a big black void there right now.

      Delete
  9. i knew that people are same everywhere dear Jenny whether it is east or west but when i see (or feel since i know you ) that you have an Eastern heart ,the depth in your love for your family amazes me with deep serenity and strengthens that Connection my heart feel with you.

    i really wonder if most of people out there feel same about their loved ones.

    i really share your habit to put my self at the end of the line and provide them comfort with all my efforts' i never got positive response in my life but even opposite to this often still i see how kindness makes it's way to me and with my faith Only that Hidden divine force can make this happen that knows all the secrets of our hearts and all the pattern of our thoughts and intentions.

    i am so Happy for you could finish your work at time and relaxing now :)
    prayers springing up from the bottom of my heart for your peace ,health and comfort my dear friend!

    this is so wise that you finally have decided to sort out how far you can go with all responsibilities and classifying them ,that will surely release you from the pressure you feel upon you all the time.

    good that you learnt something new ,learning is greatest source of pleasure indeed .
    how nice you are having mild summers ,this sounds a huge luxury for that i have dreamt since ages .
    best of luck with all you choose to do dear Jenney!
    i am glad we are having you back gradually!
    hugs and blessings to you and to all you love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel we are so close in thought and heart, baili. Your words mean a great deal to me. Thank you - thank you. Wishing all the best for you and those you love as well.

      Delete
  10. If one can't solve others problems (and usually, we can't), it is at least good to determine what you can/can't or will/won't do to help resolve their issues. Sounds like that is where you are--you have defined your boundaries and won't allow yourself to be pulled from pillar to post. Of course, those boundaries are likely to shift now and then, but at least you have a framework in your own mind. A mental barrier to help you cope. Good for you. Glad the work stress has eased up for the moment--you needed a break from that stress, too.

    Things are chaotic here--entering my third month of house renovations. Painters are here again this week doing all the main areas inside the house. All doors have been replaced (interior/closet/exterior). Two bathrooms have been completely redone. Some other repair work is still to be done in the garage. Have you ever heard a cast iron tub being cut up? A tad loud. I'm with you, peace and quiet are my best friends. Looking forward to encountering 'them' again in the near future. :) Stay well, friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A mental barrier - yes! great description. That's exactly what it is.

      House renos are HARD! I feel your pain. Three months is a long time to be living alongside the noise and dust and lack of privacy. I'm not sure I could do that :) I hope it winds up soon for you.

      Delete
  11. Dear Jenny, this is a good report in the sense that you are actively caring for yourself by setting boundaries. It is so hard, this passage with our aging parents, and yours has come at a particularly grueling time. But you're right, you can only do what you can do. My heart positively lifted to read that you were "listening to peace an quiet," which is definitely not loafing, but a much needed moment for restoration. Hugs, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still wish, selfishly, that I didn't have to carry this alone. But there is really no alternative I can see. And at least I have learned something from it. Thanks for your understanding through all of this.

      Delete
  12. You need to lounge!
    Setting boundaries, a positive framework is a must.
    It seems wrong that you don't get support as a carer.

    We are ticking along, keeping everything going and keeping our heads down.. fortunately we don't like crowds....
    Luckily our neighbour saw a screw embedded in our car tyre...in the tread, good...and it's due for garage tlc tomorrow anyway, also good.... hopefully not too expensive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The lack of boundaries was the thing that was driving me to a desperate place - I'm still not really happy about having to take so much responsibility on top of losing my husband, but at least I think I can cope now. I hope so, anyway.

      It's good that you can get your tire fixed at the same time as your other scheduled work! It's frustrating to just get one thing done and find another thing that needs doing right away. I'm having some repairs done tomorrow and when I took the car to the garage this evening I noticed the inspection sticker had expired - so I'll get both things done at once, too :)

      Delete
  13. I am happy you have a day to relax. I can only imagine how it is for you worrying about your mother. Memory loss is such a terrible illness and it affects an entire family, some more than others. Boundaries are important to establish for yourself. You have your own issues this summer. Take care!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Marie. Yes, between thinking about Mom's issues and taking care of what I need to do for her and worrying about everything, it consumes a fair bit of time and energy. I need the rules so I can preserve enough of both for myself and my needs too.

      Delete
  14. I'm glad you've reached a place of psychological equilibrium re. your mom and her care. We've faced many of those issues with our mom too, and there was a period of time when we just had to allow her to try to make it on her own, even knowing she was having trouble and wasn't taking her medicine correctly, etc. We finally DID get to the point where we could take action, but it took a while. And now Mom is totally happy, at least from all we can tell, so ultimately it worked out for the best. Fingers crossed the same will be true in your case.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really hoping! It's good to hear it worked out for your mom that way. And that means it's theoretically possible for my mom's situation to be resolved that way too.

      Delete
  15. I was wondering how things were going for you, the update is most welcome. Devastating when you don't get the answers you need. I suspect fear is behind some of your mother's behaviour and she is reacting the only way she knows how. My life is in turmoil, I'll spare you the details. My emotions run the gamut, desperation shows up often. I don't have the strength to fight my corner. It is unbearably hot here in BC. windows are closed, curtains drawn which just adds to the gloom. One of these days life will have sorted itself out for you and I. I've promised myself a cruise when it does, even if it takes my last penny! Alaska is tempting considering the heat outside lol. Thank goodness for a sense of humour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right about fear being an underlying issue, for sure. And for that, I feel badly for her and try to have compassion.

      I'm so sorry you are having a difficult time. That feeling of desperation is an awful thing, isn't it? I don't know your situation but I certainly know that feeling. I do hope the heat and fires lift soon. It must feel like the apocalypse there - really frightening. Take care of yourself as well as possible, please. And you're right about humour. When mine goes missing, I know it's a very bad situation indeed.

      Delete
  16. Hi Jenny, thanks for the update, I've been thinking of you.
    Here in the US, the laws are definitely geared towards keeping elders in their own homes for as long as possible, but that may be more about saving the government the Medicaid expense that is usually what pays for nursing home care.
    Briana bought a gas can for the generator last winter when the snow was knocking the power out right when we needed it the most, but she never ended up using the generator.
    So right as she was leaving for her last trip to her family's property in Humboldt County, she decided to put the two gallons of gas into the car and then refill the can for emergency use, but had an awful time getting the can to work.
    The spout has a spring loaded cap on the end of it, and you have to push on its trigger mechanism with the weight of the can to make it open.
    That seems unnecessarily complicated to me, who used to carry cans of gas all over the place for my racing motorcycles, but perhaps it is OK since we were able to figure it out and make it work.
    We have had very little rain this year, and the vegetation is dangerously dry here in the wildfire zone. Last week there were flash flood warnings from the National Weather Service, but all we ended up getting was a few drops of rain.
    Please remember as you are caring for your mother to care for yourself first, as you can't care for anyone else if you don't get what you need.
    At least "part two of infinity" sounds as if you are looking to the future...

    your friend
    -Doug in Sugar Pine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the same here - the government is focused on keeping seniors in their own homes but cynically I do believe it's more about saving money than about keeping seniors happy. Ah well, maybe it's a two-fer and therefore worthy :)

      I'm glad you and Briana got the gas can spout figured out. It sounds like something that would just be the last straw for me so I'm glad ours is simple.

      I hope you get some rain soon - nice, gentle, steady rain that will help with your drought. It's a huge worry when things get so dry.

      Thanks for your good thoughts, Doug. They help.

      Delete
  17. Sending hugs...I won't repeat what I've posted and no I did not travel. Life in the Delta variant capitol is scary enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I missed your post so I'll head over to your blog shortly. I do think of you there in Florida and hope you are well. The news is not good coming out of your state.

      Delete
  18. I find that most people, whatever their age, don't like being told what to do, but given a bit of time work it out for themselves and usually come up with the same result. Your Mum just needs that time to work it out for herself, especially now you have laid down boundaries and that you won't be at her beck and call every day. Stay firm with her for your own sanity. Glad to hear that at least one pressure, ie work, is off you for now, which is good timing considering the problems with your Mum.

    My days are pretty much the same, we still look after our youngest Grand-daughter two days a week, but that will change in September when she starts going to school full-time.

    I couldn't understand about the gas in a can until one of the comments made me realize you mean petrol. It's all about our common language where you say gas for the car and we say petrol.

    Take care Jenny and look after yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make an excellent point in your first sentence, Joan. I've never thought much about that, but will do so now. I think it will help me go a little more slowly when bringing up a new idea or question.

      Looking after grandchildren is tiring! I imagine you will miss her but perhaps you need a break as well.

      Yes, we both speak English . . . but which particular variety? hah

      Thanks, Joan - you look after yourself too.

      Delete
  19. Hahahaha! That picture is hilarious!
    But on to more serious matters: I think you are very correct to set your boundaries now! I think it will save you much grief later. Make sure the immediate needs are met and everything else is on your timetable. I learned that from watching my Dad care for my Mom. It would have drained him completely if he hadn't set those boundaries early.
    Wishing you strength, peace and good health, my friend!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The hard part is knowing my mother is unhappy and also knowing that trying to avoid that unhappiness is a losing battle. But I think I've got it straight in my head now. Your dad did well to look after your mom.

      Thanks for your good wishes, Diane.

      Delete
  20. Good to hear another update from you, jenny_o. Continued best of luck with your mother. Hang in there. =) And enjoy that down time. You need it and deserve it. Take care and have a good rest of your week.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank you so much for this update. Boundary setting felt mean and selfish to me (having been brought up believing that thinking of myself was a selfish action) but it restored some at least of my sanity. Some days my boundaries got stretched, as they assuredly will for you too, but it is a WONDERFUL start.
    And how I would love to relax as well as a dog - or a cat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ditto on the feeling mean and selfish front ... but I'm starting to understand it's better than a nervous breakdown (as it used to be called).

      Ah, yes, to be a pampered pet - one of ours, for instance :)

      Delete
  22. There just isn't any 'right' solution, is there? I'm glad you're beginning to see a way through this, hopefully without beating yourself up too much.

    I had to peer at that photo to see if the 'twin' was just a Photoshop copy - so funny! Somebody should offer courses in 'relaxed sprawling'. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somebody . . . like some dogs (or cats) :)

      Delete
  23. Thanks for updating us on the situation that you and your mother find yourselves in. It's so hard. All you can do is keep battling through, remembering to look after yourself and save yourself regular "me time". One day, something will change - hopefully for the better. Just hang in there Jenny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Mr. Pudding. It helps.

      Delete
  24. Boundaries not only protect us but allow us to care for our loved ones more competently. You're doing a fine job and I hope you can find more ways to buy yourself some breaks.
    xo

    ReplyDelete

Comment moderation has been enabled.